Cyber Awareness Training for Victoria’s Small to Medium Businesses

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Overview

RMIT’s Cyber Ready Cloud Innovation Centre (CIC) facilitates student collaboration with the public sector to address cyber issues in the real world.

In July 2021, RMIT’s CIC partnered with the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) to address a lack of cyber awareness among small to medium businesses (SMBs) in Victoria. Small to medium-sized companies often have a limited understanding of the potential harm that cyber incidents can cause to their organisation. They are also often time and resource-poor, and as result, may not invest in the necessary training to increase their cyber knowledge and better understand what the major threats to their organisation are and how to prevent them.

To help address this issue, two multidisciplinary teams of RMIT students worked with Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Digital Innovation and Solutions Architects in a fast-paced innovation challenge. The challenge was designed to come up with ideas to help these SMBs access cyber security training and build internal cyber capability to be able to address and prevent cyber incidents themselves.

Problem

Australia's economic prosperity is related to the levels of growth in small and medium businesses . SMBs account for 99.8% of businesses in Australia, and employ 7.3 million people (ACSC). A cyber incident in these small and medium businesses can have serious impacts, with estimated losses sitting at $300 milllion per year (ACSC). However, SMB operators and owners are observed to be not spending much time securing their businesses, let alone increasing their knowledge about cyber security (ACSC). This cyber readiness is considered an important factor that increases growth by adopting innovative ways, thereby creating value for the customers.

Teams were asked to look at ways in which we can encourage SMBs to increase their cyber readiness, through the problem statement:

How might we educate time-poor SMBs on the importance of being cyber secure?”

Approach

The CIC team and AWS Head of Digital Innovation, Catherine Eibner, led students through Amazon’s “Working Backwards” innovation methodology to identify and understand who the people and organisations are experiencing these problems. By immersing themselves in the lives of an SMB owner or worker, students were able to understand trends and everyday situations occurring in these businesses, which helped them come up with a solution that is both relevant and useful.

The AWS Working Backwards method is a highly creative yet structured approach to innovation. Participants are encouraged to think big and generate wild ideas, before consolidating their thinking and producing three artifacts:

  • Press Release (a mock press announcement for their product or service, dated in the future)
  • FAQs document (outlining and answering the key concerns participants foresee customers having)
  • Visuals (showing how the customer will engage with the product or service)

Outcomes

Upon completing the 12-week innovation program, both teams came up with interesting and innovative solution prototypes, which they presented to their challenge sponsor, course academics and the wider CIC community in a Final Showcase.

Team F5

Team F5 developed a tool called Vicysaver –  a machine learning powered Application Programming Interface (API) that alerts users of a possible threat to their infrastructure before their business is impacted. The API is integrated with a customer’s infrastructure using the cloud, and performs inference on incoming network traffic data from the client’s website, watching for unusual behaviour and events. If suspicious activity is detected, the customer is alerted via an email containing details of the abnormal activity. The tool also provides the customer with interactive dashboards and visualisations of the predicted data hosted in a web portal, allowing them to learn about which online resources and which types of users are trying to attack their infrastructure.

Team TM3

Team TM3 created Armour-1, a tool that detects any abnormal activities within an online business that could leave them vulnerable to cyber-attack, and helps users respond in appropriate ways. The tool uses advanced machine learning models to efficiently identify such abnormal activity, and reports back to the user through visualisations that are easy to compare and understand. Armour-1 eliminates the time, labour cost and room for error associated with traditional human-based cyber checks, instead providing accurate results in seconds.  

Supporting Artefacts created by the students 

Team TM3

Team F5

About the RMIT CIC

The RMIT Cyber Ready CIC is a collaboration between RMIT and AWS and forms part of a growing global network of Cloud Innovation Centres (CICs) designed to address public sector challenges through digital innovation.

The CIC is based at RMIT’s home of innovation and entrepreneurship, Activator, and draws from experts across various fields, including RMIT’s Blockchain Innovation Hub, Health Transformation Lab and RMIT Online – giving partners access to the best innovative thinkers and brightest young minds from across the University.

The CIC is backed by AWS’s cloud technology and expertise in machine learning, high-performance computing and data analytics, ensuring prototypes are equipped to deliver practical solutions using cutting edge tools and technology.

About Challenge Sponsor

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Victorian Chamber) is Victoria's largest and most influential not-for-profit business organisation, informing and supporting 47,000 members and clients across the Victorian state. The Victoria Chamber proudly champions business’ interests with a strong focus on ensuring transformational growth, international trade opportunities, and sustainability for all members.

Thanks goes to our Challenge Sponsor:

Glenn Goodwin​, Executive Director – Information, Communications and Technology​, VCCI

Cyber Ready CIC Team:

  • Matt Salier, Director, RMIT Cyber Ready Coud Innovation Centre
  • Meg San Miguel, Program Delivery Lead, RMIT Cyber Ready Coud Innovation Centre
  • Bobbie Couhbor, Senior Solutions Architect, Cloud Innovation Australia, New Zealand & Oceania, AWS
  • Catherine Eibner, Head of Cloud Innovation Australia, New Zealand & Oceania, AWS
  • Georgia Smith, Cloud Innovation Program Manager, Australia, New Zealand & Oceania, AWS
  • Nivetha Thandapani, Business Innovation Support Intern, RMIT Cyber Ready Coud Innovation Centre
  • Zian Fernandes, Technical Innovation Support Intern, RMIT Cyber Ready Coud Innovation Centre

Students:

Team TM3:

  • Muhammad Fazal
  • Sai Praveen Kallepalli
  • Paras Kathayat
  • Akshaya  Badala
  • Shishen Chen

Team F5:

  • Lakshmi Priya Madanapalli
  • Achintya Gupta
  • Anirudhda Pardhi
  • Thygarajan Viswesan
  • Hiritala Golle Pavani Premadasa

Become an industry sponsor

Engage in a fast-paced innovation sprint that sees multidiscplinary teams of students working on a real-life cyber security challenge faced by your organisation.

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.